Blind man claims rideshares deny him service

Middle TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Nashville man, who is blind, says ride share companies often deny him rides because of his service dog.

The Metro Nashville District Attorney’s Office is now getting involved in hopes of raising awareness before legal action has to be taken.

“I’ve been blind for gosh, 40 years now,” said James Brown.

Brown lives in South Nashville. For him, travel depends on public transportation and ride share companies like Uber and Lyft.

“Blind people, really, we’re just like everybody else,” Brown said. “We just learn to do things a different way.”

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, public transportation services, agencies or companies cannot deny a rider who has a certified service dog. Brown says he often uses Uber and is denied once out of every five times he uses the app.

One incident went a little like this:

“The Uber driver pulled up and said, ‘We don’t take dogs,’ and I said, ‘According to ADA, he’s not a dog. He’s just like a wheelchair for someone,” Brown explained. “And he {the Uber driver} pretty much left me right then.”

Tammy Meade, Assistant District Attorney for Nashville is working with Brown on his case.

“That dog is his eyes. He is a guide dog. He is not a pet,” said Meade. “If a person has such a dog a person cannot, under state or federal law, be denied access to rides, and the state law mirrors that.”

Meade says their goal is to educate ride share drivers in an effort to avoid taking legal action.

“What I think drivers may not understand is when they drive for rideshare companies, Uber, Lyft or whatever, once they decide to pick up paying passengers and provide a ride sharing service, they are considered public transportation under the law,” said Meade. “They have to follow the same rules for disabled persons as do airplanes, buses, trains, taxi cabs, any of that.”

Under federal law, the penalties for breaking the Americans with Disabilities Act is up to $75,000 dollars. Under state law, it’s a misdemeanor.

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